The breakdown of a relationship is a difficult time and can be one of, if not the most, stressful times in a person’s life. Some people can sort through their issues amicably and reach a fair agreement. This is the best way to proceed if possible. However, if an amicable agreement is unlikely you should consider taking action to protect your interests.
Luckily, there are a number of practical steps you can take to protect yourself including:
- Talk to your bank. The aim is to prevent a malicious ex-partner from emptying bank accounts or drawing down on redraw facilities. Also, credit cards are an issue. You may find yourself unable to use a subsidiary card or an ex-partner abusing a credit card.
- Change passwords. This is particularly important for banking but can include passwords for social media to maintain privacy.
- Make sure all important documents are in a safe place. Important documents include financial documents (bank statements, property purchase records, passports, etc). Passports can be particularly important if there is a risk an ex-partner may flee overseas with children and/or assets.
- Valuable items should be kept in a safe place. Valuable items include items with monetary or sentimental value. An ex-partner may try to hide/dispose of valuable items or hurt you by destroying sentimental items.
- Utilities may need to be changed. It may be necessary to change account names to stop services being cut off or large bills accrued.
- Keep records. Try to keep records any communication you have with your ex-partner. This includes emails, text messages, notes, etc. A diary can be used to jot down verbal conversations. The records will help if you need to turn to legal proceedings to resolve your matter.
- Health insurance policy should be considered. It is possible for an ex-partner to cancel a family policy or have you excluded from cover.
- Consider other legal matters. This includes documents such as a Will, Power of Attorney or Advance Health Directive. Your separation does not invalidate these documents and it may be unwise to leave them in place unchanged.
- Get legal advice. Resolving matters amicably and fairly is best for all involved. If this is not possible then getting legal advice at an early stage is helpful. Getting legal advice does not stop you reaching a negotiated settlement down the track. Approximately half of people who divorce reach agreement between themselves and only use lawyers to formalise their agreement. Approximately 45% make court applications but most do not go to trial. Their matters are resolved by mediation, conferences or communication between lawyers. Getting legal advice does not lock you into expensive legal proceedings. However, you will be aware of your rights and better able to protect your position.
Not all steps in the above list will be applicable in every case, and some cases will have more issues to consider. However, the above list gives you some idea of the type of steps you should consider taking in order to protect yourself if you are facing separation (or have recently separated).
The old saying “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure” certainly applies in relation to separation and family law.
Contact us for advice on how to protect yourself after separation and the settlement options you have.